Most of us wouldn't mind getting a salary increase, especially with how inflation affects most of the world. Everything seems to be getting increasingly expensive, and our spending power seems to shrink by the week. Most companies give incremental salary bumps every year, but that hasn't kept up with real-world living expenses. Those slight pay increases also rarely reflect your improvements throughout the year.
What you want is a raise proportional to the value you've provided and your career growth. But how can you get a raise that reasonably matches your current skill level? You can try to improve your existing skills to get promoted to a QA manager or switch roles from manual testing to automation. Unfortunately, some workplaces won't have the roles or capacity to promote anyone. Some places simply don't promote anyone from within. No matter how hard you try, these decisions are out of your hands.
Whether you're a manual tester who's been working for a year or two at your company or a software development engineer in test with plenty of experience, the best way to get a salary increase is by finding a new job.
It Pays to Jump to a New Company as a Tester
Evidence shows that job-hopping pays off more than the average salary increase if you stay at your job. In one report, the payroll and HR giant ADP collected data for 18 million workers in 2021 and noted that people who switched jobs had wage growth of 5.8%, compared to 3.1% of workers who kept their jobs. In Japan, the HR company Recruit also found the same this year: job switchers saw their salary increase by 3%, while people who stayed put got a 1.2% increase.
Likely, you or someone you know has experienced the same increases in salary when switching jobs intentionally. My personal experience has mirrored this, including my salary increasing by 50% when I went from one company to another early in my career (which then increased an additional 33% by the time I left due to internal promotions). It's not uncommon to hear stories of people who get their salaries doubled simply by switching to a new company.
A jump in your base salary isn't the only thing you might get by switching companies. You should also factor in additional perks and benefits that come with a new role, such as flexible working hours, the ability to work remotely, and more vacation time. Depending on your country and the organization, these extras can vary widely. For instance, a startup in Silicon Valley might offer equity on top of a salary increase. Many of these factors don't directly affect the amount of money you'll get but can massively contribute to a more fulfilling career in the long haul.
Money Isn't Everything When Switching QA Jobs
It's not all about the salary increase, though. Of course, we all need money, but sometimes, the short-term bump in pay can negatively affect your long-term career if you only focus on the cash. You need to see beyond the financial numbers to ensure you're making the right decision to increase your earning power for years to come. This step is especially noteworthy for testers who are still early in their careers.
It's vital to keep an eye out for potential stagnation in your current role and future positions. Early in my career, I left one job only to land at another where I was doing the exact same work with minimal variation. It led to stagnation and laziness if I'm being honest. I initially made a little extra money when I switched roles, but the lack of professional growth likely cost me much more than I could have earned if I had chosen somewhere that stretched me beyond my comfort zone.
One of the primary areas you need to explore when finding a new job is the ability to expand your skills. As a software tester, you're likely comfortable using certain tools and following specific processes that have been part of your current role. Finding a different position that exposes you to new methodologies and technologies will make you much more valuable in QA and will directly affect your ability to earn for the rest of your testing career.
Finding New Work as a Tester When Times Seem Uncertain
These days, it seems like most tech companies, large and small, have been laying off employees every week. In 2023 alone, industry behemoths like Google, Meta, and Amazon have let go of tens of thousands of employees. Many of these companies have also frozen hiring, so we now have fewer choices when it comes to finding new work. The competition also might become fiercer for any available roles due to the influx of talented, laid-off professionals on the market.
It's no longer enough to send a buzzword-filled resume and expect a call. You must showcase your skills, experience, and desire to grow as a QA professional. Growing your professional network on places like LinkedIn or forums like the ones at the Ministry of Testing can open doors to new opportunities. Writing blogs and uploading videos is an excellent way to shine a light on what you know and show a passion for your trade. There are many different venues you can take to set you apart from the pack, and many worthwhile companies value that initiative.
Despite this apparent downturn we're currently in, it's not all doom and gloom as most major publications make it seem. If you look hard enough, you'll still find plenty of respected and interesting organizations looking for highly skilled testers like you to join their teams. Sure, it's more challenging to find those positions than before, and you'll probably receive countless rejections or get "ghosted." I know how much of a mental drain that is. But it's not impossible to overcome. Downturns are temporary, and you can start preparing now for a brighter future before jumping to a new job.
The days of working at the same company for decades until you retire are long gone. Most modern companies know this but secretly hope you stick around despite their lack of financial and non-financial incentives. As a software tester, taking control of your career and financial future is up to you. Seeking a new job might be your best strategy for achieving these goals.
Leaving your current role to find a new one elsewhere often comes with a higher increase in pay compared to waiting for a potential raise that may or may never come. You also might receive additional benefits like a more flexible working environment that can drastically improve your work-life balance. Besides money, a new role brings new responsibilities to develop and yield more significant opportunities for you in the future.
This article isn't saying that everyone reading this needs to find a new job as soon as possible. You may be happy with your current team, salary, and responsibilities. If that's the case, hold on to what you have. But many would benefit from a new place, whether for the money or career growth. The job market is a bit tight at the moment, but begin putting yourself out there—you never know what you can find. Getting out of your comfort zone is the absolute best way to become a better tester.
Have you experienced a substantial salary increase when switching jobs? Besides salary and additional responsibilities, what factors influence your decision when considering moving to a new company? I'd love to hear your story. Leave a comment below and share it with the QA community!